Hannah Cornelius Photo: Facebook

Hannah Cornelius had severe genital injuries, was stabbed in the neck and the heavy object she was hit with twice on the head was believed to have killed her.

She had been hit so hard on the head she would have died almost immediately, the pathologist who examined the Stellenbosch student's body told the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday, News24 reported.

"It is not easy for a skull to break or crack, unless a lot of power is used to break the skull," State pathologist Dr Deidre Abrahams testified.

She was stabbed in the neck with either a knife or a screwdriver and showed signs of severe genital and cervical injuries, with sand found inside that part of her body.

Abrahams explained that clues, like the sand, showed that a victim was unprepared for what was about to happen, possibly being thrown to the ground, the sand entering the victim's body as the victim was penetrated.

"This is part of the overwhelming experience of the deceased," she said. "This would have been a very painful experience to the person."

Cornelius had bruises on her arms, her legs were scratched, probably from when her pants were pulled down, and she had a contusion on her lip.

Abrahams submitted it appeared that Cornelius had been hit on the head twice with a heavy object and that somebody had held the right side of her head while she was on the ground.

She was hit so hard that her skull cracked and her brain was damaged.

However, earlier in proceedings, two technicians who found Cornelius's body near a borehole they were repairing testified that they had used a rock to cover the borehole the night before they found her. The rock they used had been moved when they arrived the next day to finish the work.

Abrahams said a belt had been found around Cornelius's neck, but that there was no sign of strangulation detected during the autopsy.

The blows to Cornelius's head would have been rapid and the force, judging by the severity of the head injuries, meant she would have died quickly.

"The cause of death, therefore, was firstly the severe blunt head injuries," said Abrahams.

She had also been stabbed in the lower neck near the top of the green jersey that she was wearing. The jersey was inside out. That injury would also have been fatal as it had pierced a gland in the neck.

Abrahams believed that it was the blows to Cornelius's head that had killed her.